A full month before the season kicks off, Mark Buehrle is close to taking his first loss in Miami. The new Marlins ace is celebrity spokesman number one for pit bulls and the activists trying to overturn Miami-Dade's two-decade ban on the dog breed. Along with his wife, he's vocally pushed for lawmakers to pass bills in the House and Senate to negate Dade's rule.
Last night the House bill fell short of getting out of committee. The measure isn't dead, but with just over a week left in the session, pit bulls are perilously close to another year on the wrong side of Dade's laws. Still, pro-pit bull activists are pushing for a vote. "If I wasn't hopeful, I would have hung up my hat a long time ago," says activist Dahlia Canes.
"I try to tell people, 'If you're scared of pit bulls or don't like them just because of the way they look, let me introduce you to my dog.' We treat him right," Buehrle tells the Sun-Sentinel this morning.
Despite the committee defeat, the bills aren't dead. Canes says that both the Senate and House bills could reach the floor for a vote before the session ends on March 9 if they're pulled from committee and submitted directly for a vote.
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Blame Fred Grimm for the delay. The Herald columnist has decided to take up the mantle of media scaremonger to keep the old ban in place.
His column two weeks ago is a case study in the kind of pit bull panic that initiated Dade's nonsensical ban two decades ago. He cites horrific attacks - including that of an 8-year-old girl that inspired Miami's prohibition. He mentions a CDC study supposedly showing pit bulls to be responsible for a huge number of injuries and deaths.
"Equal rights for all breeds," he writes scathingly of Buehrle's goal, "even dangerous breeds."
Never mind that the CDC study Grimm cites has been widely discredited, in large part because it relied on police who tend to classify virtually every dog incident as a "pit bull attack."
Never mind that nearly every legit animal group, from the Humane Society to the American Veterinary Medical Association, opposes the ban.
Never mind that the law is expensive, nearly impossible to enforce and flaunted by loads of research that shows that no breed is born deadly.
"We don't believe any one breed of dog is inherently more dangerous than any other breed," Adam Goldfarb, a Humane Society spokesman, told New Times.
In fact, about the only organization still standing behind Grimm and the Miami-Dade ban is PETA. And frankly, if you're alone in a room with those guys, God have mercy on your soul.
But after Tallahassee's whiff yesterday, it appears that Dade's ban will live to see another day. The failed committee vote came just a few days after Ohio's governor, John Kasich, signed a bill legalizing pit bulls across his state.
His reasons? Ohioans were spending $17 million a year enforcing a law that didn't work.